Santa Cruz County has a rich agricultural history dating back to the early 1800’s when agricultural production was dedicated primarily to the raising of livestock for meat, hides and tallow1. In the 1850’s and 1860’s agriculture in our region began to expand towards commercial production with plantings of potatoes and sugar beets. The first fruit orchards began to be planted around this time.
The arrival of the railroad in 1871 opened new opportunities for our growers to export commodities out of the region. Improvements in transportation and cooling over time allowed fresh fruits and vegetables to be sent anywhere in the U.S. The Pajaro Valley divided by the Pajaro river between Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties is one of the most fertile areas in our State. Pajaro Junction carries the distinction of being the first place in our region to ship iced lettuce using the railroad.
Technological advancement over the decades have created profound changes in farming in the U.S. and our growers have benefited from these allowing for a diverse number of commodities to be grown in Santa Cruz County. Our region is now best known for its strawberry and raspberry production, and wide variety of leafy vegetables. Apple production has been a staple of our county for decades, and apples were our number one commodity for many years from the 1940’s into the late 1970’s. In 1980 strawberries took the number one spot and have remained at the top for the past 40 years.
Santa Cruz County agriculture ranks 23 out of 58 California counties in gross production value. Our growers are diverse, producing conventional and organic fruits and vegetables. Santa Cruz County is one of the leading counties in overall organic gross sales in our State. Agricultural organic production makes up 20% of our overall gross production value.
Agriculture is the number one industry in Santa Cruz County creating thousands of jobs and making significant contributions to our local economy. These contributions come in the form of “indirect effects and induced effects”2. Indirect effects consist of business to business supply purchases such as the purchases of farm equipment, fertilizer, packaging materials, insurance and other inputs. Induced effects consist of “consumption spending” by agricultural business owners and their employees such as the purchase of household goods and leisure activities.
1 Ronald H. Tyler, Farm Advisor Emeritus. “Santa Cruz County Agriculture: An Overview.”
2 Langholz, Jeff and Fernado DePaolis. “Economic Contributions of Santa Cruz County Agriculture.” 2013, pp. 7.